Kayaking has gained immense popularity as a water sport in the past decades – not just globally, but also in India. The administrative body for kayaking in India is Indian Kayaking and Canoeing Association (IKCA), headquartered in Delhi.
Earlier, Kayaking was not too much famed as a competitive sport and tourists would take kayaking as a recreational activity. Lack of proper infrastructure, training avenues and general level of awareness about the sport – these factors weighed heavily on the success of kayaking as a sport in India. However, with the rising awareness about adventure sports and eco-tourism in India, things are changing for the better. With better and improved facilities, infrastructure and avenues, kayaking is set to become one of the most established and structured water sports in India.
People are fast appreciating the beauty and latent dynamism in water sports like kayaking and more and more people are taking up kayaking as enthusiasts and even as sporting professionals.
Kayaking is now almost an all-season sports depending on the region to region. In northern India, the peak season for kayaking is from July to September in Zanskar ranges. In the hilly terrains of Uttarakhand, the season peaks from October to May. In Kashmir, kayaking season peaks from April to November.
In the southern part of India, Kayaking season lasts throughout the year. In Goa (where regular kayaking expeditions are carried out in the inland rivers), except during Monsoons, kayaking is a year-long activity. And in the backwater of Kerala kayaking can be done anytime, except when the weather forecast predicts heavy rains.
In the sea waters, Kayaking is done all year long except the monsoons as it is the breeding season of ocean fauna.
The diverse and rich geographical terrain of India makes it a very well suited and adaptable sport in India. India has no dearth of varied ranges of water bodies – from the lush and rapid Himalayan streams in the valleys of North and Northeast to the plain and tranquil backwaters of Kerala. The famous locations for kayaking in India are:
Words don’t describe Kashmir – experience does! The marvel of this truth is evident in the fabled beauty of Kashmir – from the tranquil lakes of Srinagar to the turbulent rivers of Shopian and Pahalgam. However, when it comes to kayaking, Nigeen lake (literally – “jewel in the ring”) is the ultimate deal. The slow and tranquil backdrop of hills in the heart of Srinagar and the quiet, awe-inspiring waters underneath you make your soul reverberate with peace. Located at 1582 meters above sea level and deeper than the famous Dal Lake, Nigeen is the ideal location for an adventure of serene calmness.
Jauljibi – the place of confluence for the two rivers – Gori Ganga and Kali, is the starting point for the Kayaking trip. After initial grade 2 level rapids here, you get ready for the grade 3 rapids while kayaking from Juhlaghat to Pancheshwar, the confluence of Kali and Sarayu. Loads of thrills are guaranteed as you move further from Pancheshwar to Sonali Gaon and Pari Gaon. These are great fishing spots for fishing too and perfectly sandy places to camp in. The stretch between Sonali Gaon and Pari Gaon is where you encounter the most powerful rapid of Kali – the grade 4 + “Chuka” rapid. After a memorable camping at Pari Gaon, you head out to Boom, where the kayaking culminates.
Famed for the whitewater kayaking expeditions and events, locations across the mighty Brahmaputra River and its tributaries, especially the famed Subansiri offers a myriad of adventure sports. Subansiri is the biggest tributary of Brahmaputra and flows through Tibet before entering India at Asaphila in Arunachal Pradesh.
First you encounter the grade 4 level rapids en route from Dumporijo to Taliha, which is a serene camping spot. After a night of camping at Taliha, the next line of journey begins towards Sippi village, where the rapids now decline to grade 3. The remoteness and the silent loneliness of this area become clear when you kayak past Daporijo and camp for the night in a gorge – an adventure beyond routine!
This globally renowned river is especially noted for its crystal blue, icy waters and grade 4 rapids that can test the nerves of experienced kayakers. Originating from the Lake Tso Lhamo at an altitude of 17,500 ft. in North Sikkim, Teesta wages through the jagged ranges of rocks and jagged hills to meet Rangeet tributary at Triveni. This site noted for its sandy delta formation is a famous campsite.
The coastal line of Goa is the nature’s guarantee of an experience that you will cherish for life. From its inland water-bodies and quiet backwaters to the challenge of the seas – Goa has it all!
Located in Kolad village in Raigarh district of Maharashtra, the turbulent waters of Kundalika River will make your adrenaline shoot up. Lasting up to1-2 days, the kayaking expedition to Kundalika River is an adventure-throbbing pack for you.
Engage in whitewater kayaking for 12Kms. where thundering rapids and crashing water jets make for a pumping real-world adventure. The banks of Kundalika are famed for being ideal campsites; so relax in pride after a deserving finish to an adventure!
Kerala is called “God’s own country” and the silent backwaters in inlands are part of the reason. This trip takes you to locations you have never been to and to an experience that soothes the mind and soul. Through the backwaters of Kerala, you get to experience the life of villages and the chirping of kingfishers and cormorants.
A 4-6 hour kayaking expedition through the inlands of Alappuzha and the water adventures in Kumarakom will give you the best experience in inland kayaking that can ever be had. This is bliss indeed!
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As a sport, kayaking was introduced in the 1936 Olympics as the European sports bodies began to look at it from a recreational perspective. Development for compact and easy to handle kayaks also went on and by 1970s, kayaking began to feature as a sport in the U.S and today it boasts of several variations and more than a dozen individual events in Olympics.
Kayaking is of several types as listed below –
1. Recreational kayaking: Recreational kayaking is the basic kayaking that is seen on well-protected lakes and other safe bodies of water. They are the boats used in rental fleets and local parks and are found on the shores of lake homes across the country. Weekend kayaking is popular in Bangalore, Mangalore and Mulki.
2. Sea kayaking: Sea kayaking is done out in the ocean or on other bodies of water that are large and unpredictable. Sea kayaks have two sealed bulkheads, one in the bow in front of the feet and the other in the stern behind the seat. Sea kayaking expeditions take place in offshore locations in Goa and Tamil Nadu.
3. Whitewater kayaking: Whitewater kayakers paddle rivers, streams, and creeks where rapid flow and currents are present. This type of kayaking is gaining popularity in the hilly terrains of Kashmir and Uttarakhand. Whitewater kayaking is also referred to as kayaking slalom and is aimed at navigating a kayak downstream amidst rapid currents in the fastest possible time.
4. Sit-on-Top kayaking: this type of kayaking has gained popularity in recent years and about one out of five kayaks purchased is a sit-on-top kayak. Impossible to sink and compact, the ease of handling has made this form of kayaking a favored one.
1. Kayaking is a sport of balance and as such, the techniques for kayaking rely heavily on the weight balancing and posturing abilities of an athlete.
2. Learning the proper technique requires balance and proper posture – one has to keep the center of body weight low and centered.
3. Paddling should be done sitting upright and not leaning back. The feet should be resting comfortably against the foot pedals and legs should be comfortably flexed and a little splayed out.
4. The power of paddling comes from the torso, which means that one has to keep the hands more relaxed. This also prevents arms, shoulders or back from injuries.
5. Next comes the proper forward stroke and it must be deep and even, which means that paddling must be done to push in as much water as possible without losing balance and regular rhythm must be applied.
6. Comfort of the seat is very important as it separates a very basic kayak from a higher quality kayak.
7. Last but most importantly, learning kayaking from a professional institute (numerous such institutes have been set up in India) is essential and due practice must be ensured before opting to participate in any kayaking event.
In India, the “Indian Kayaking and Canoeing Association” (IKCA), headquartered in New Delhi, organizes regular competitions and kayaking events at different locations.
Annual and bi-annual sports meets are held every year and the competitions are organized for both junior and senior level athletes. These competitions are scheduled at both state level and national level under the segment of water sports.
Kayaking and other water sports in India got a big boost when ICF Slalom Committee decided to set up an Asian Slalom Academy in Kalsi in Uttarakhand.
Kayaking is a largely considered to be a fun sport in India and numerous events and kayaking festivals are held.
In Bangalore, weekend trekking trips are organized and kayaking is featured as a water sport in the whole package.
In the Northern valleys of Kashmir, kayaking events are organized on the pristine Nageen Lake from time to time.
Periodic events, sometimes monthly or even fortnightly, are organized during peak seasons in Goa and the North East.
In fact, apart from the regular events organized by IKCA, there are amateur enthusiasts, who organize trips and sometimes even sprint kayaking events at various locations across India.
Kayaking is a sport that requires agility and smooth motion. Moreover, any improper handling can cause injuries and can hamper your spirits. Fitness is as important in kayaking as in any other sport. Fitness means the ability to use key muscles for a specific action. Be fit and alert-physically and mentally. The key is to follow certain tips and proper ethics while preparing for and engaging in this sport.
Point 1: Proper warm up
Muscle wear due to sudden stretching of tissues can injure you while kayaking. The basic technique of kayaking involves extensive use of arms and wrists. The twists, turns, angled-movements of muscles require a proper warm up. Start by mild leg stretches and progress to full body stretches and yoga poses for 20-25 minutes.
Point 2: Get water proof storage bags/cases
Don’t let your wallet/mobile phone or any other electronic item bear the brunt of kayaking adventure. Ensure that you invest in sturdy and tough water-proof bags or cases.
Point 3: Take safety lessons and follow the instructions carefully
Kayaking is a sport where every decision counts and any flip or wrong turn can turn the kayak upside down. Study and follow up on rapid safety measures carefully.
Point 4: Know your natural style of paddling
Before getting on the actual kayak, “dry” practice on a chair or a stool. Online videos are available for how to follow the step by step guide for dry paddling and knowing which movements of paddling and postures you are comfortable with.
Point 5: Physical maps
Since you won’t be carrying your phones on the actual trip or will be keeping them locked in water proof cases, go through the geographical map of the area before you begin the trip.
Point 6: Inside the water, focus on technique and not speed
Once inside the water, maintain your straight posture and balance. Take in the scenery and the sights around you and don’t rush things. Focus on paddling techniques and don’t paddle in a hurry.
Point 7: Be in contact with others and double check your gear
This is the primary requirement for a safe adventure. Always be in contact and inside the visibility range of your guides and companions. Before you plunge in the waters, carefully double check your equipment and gear.
The type of gear depends on the kind of kayaking that one intends to indulge in. While choosing the kind of paddles and other equipment, expert-advice must be sought whenever required.
The type of kayak varies from one typo to another. Whitewater kayak differs from recreational one. Depending on the type of kayaking that you wish to do, choose from the following options:
a. Sit-on-top kayak: This one is portable and ideal for families.
b. Whitewater kayak: Suited for rough turbulence, available in numerous brands like Dagger Mamba series, Dagger Nomad, Sweet Rocker etc.,
c. Fishing kayak: Name suggests it all – the smooth, penetrative skin-coating with no extra accessories, this kayak is intended for smooth backwater kayaking
d. Inflatable kayaks: Similar in design to sit-on-top kayaks, inflatable versions are popular among new beginners and hobby-kayakers.
e. Sea kayak: Suited for the rough sailing in seas, this kayak has toughened, reinforced body frame.
Paddle varies from one kayak to another- depending upon the usage. The paddle can be feathered, un-feathered (depending on whether the ferrule can be tilted for any angle between two paddles). Ferrule is the middle point of the shaft where the two paddles come together.
Paddle may be winged, asymmetric or dihedral. These types indicate the design of the shaft and of the paddle. For example, an asymmetric paddle has different length of the two sides of a paddle, whereas the shaft for a winged paddle is straight. The shaft itself comes in fiberglass composition or in different carbon to glass ratio. For beginners, fiberglass shafts are preferred.
This is the life jacket or the life preserver for the protection of the kayaker.
Spray skirt helps to keep water out of the kayak and is essential for whitewater and sea kayaking. It can be avoided for recreational kayaking.
It is very essential for head protection. Comes in fiberglass and varying composition ranges of carbon to glass ratio. Helmet is not required for sea kayaking, although it is a must for whitewater kayaking.